A Bit of Attitude

By Bernie Bell

We were watching ‘The Antiques roadshow’, from Stormont Castle.  A woman had brought two, Staffordshire pottery greyhounds, to be valued. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, but my attention was caught by her mentioning McGrath’s dog food, and how the advertising claimed that, if you fed your dog with McGrath’s, it would be a winner. And, I  started singing……….

“Eighteen sixty eight being the date and the year,
Those Waterloo sportsmen and more did appear;
For to gain the great prizes and bear them awa’,
Never counting on Ireland and Master McGrath.”

I lost the bit the middle, but remembered the end, which is “He jumped on her back, and held up his awld paw ‘Long live the Republic’ said Master MaGrath.”

Then I wondered where I got that song from – I still can’t remember – maybe The Dubliners sang it in my youth?

I then realised something I hadn’t thought of before – that it’s an Irish rebel song. In a time when rebel songs weren’t allowed ( to put it mildly), you could sing that song, and, if questioned, a legitimate answer could be “It’s about greyhounds – what’s your problem?”

So, here’s the song, in its entirety. Wikipedia use a different ending – so it goes.

Song and Ballad – Master McGrath

Eighteen sixty eight being the date and the year,
Those Waterloo sportsmen and more did appear;
For to gain the great prizes and bear them awa’,
Never counting on Ireland and Master McGrath.

On the twelfth of December, that day of renown,
McGrath and his keeper they left Lurgan town;
A gale in the Channel, it soon drove them o’er,
On the thirteenth they landed on fair England’s shore.

And when they arrived there in big London town,
Those great English sportsmen all gathered round –
And one of the gentlemen gave a “Ha! Ha!” Saying,
“Is that the great dog you call Master McGrath?”

And one of those gentlemen standing around
Says, “I don’t care a damn for your Irish greyhound,”
And another he laughs with a scornful “Ha! Ha!
We’ll soon humble the pride of your Master McGrath.”

Then Lord Lurgan stepped forward and said, “Gentlemen,
If there’s any among you has money to spend –
For your grand English nobles I don’t care a straw –
Here’s five thousand to one upon Master McGrath.”

Then McGrath he looked up and he wagged his old tail,
Informing his lordship, “I know what you mane,
Don’t fear, noble Brownlow, don’t fear them, agra,
For I’ll tarnish their laurels,” says Master McGrath.

And Rose stood uncovered, the great English pride,
Her master and keeper were close by her side;
They have let her away and the crowd cried “Hurrah!”
For the pride of all England – and Master McGrath.

As Rose and the Master they both ran along,
“Now I wonder,” says Rose, “what took you from your home;
You should have stayed there in your Irish domain,
And not come to gain laurels on Albion’s plain.”

“Well, I know,” says McGrath, “we have wild heather bogs
But you’ll find in old Ireland there’s good men and dogs.
Lead on, bold Britannia, give none of your jaw,
Stuff that up your nostrils,” says Master McGrath.

Then the hare she went on just as swift as the wind
He was sometimes before her and sometimes behind.
Rose gave the first turn according to law;
But the second was given by Master McGrath.

The hare she led on with a wonderful view.
And swift as the wind o’er the green field she flew.
But he jumped on her back and he held up his paw
“Three cheers for old Ireland,” says Master McGrath.

I’ve known many greyhounds that filled me with pride,
In the days that are gone, but it can’t be denied,
That the greatest and the bravest that the world ever saw,
Was our champion of champions, great Master McGrath.

There was also a tune; “The Master McGrath Gallop” by H. R. Callcott R.A.M. (Composer of The Massereene Waltzes)

Master McGrath Lurgan

By Notafly from Wikimedia Commons

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